Thursday, September 8, 2011

Book Review for Surprised by Oxford by Carolyn Weber

   Surprised by Oxford is the story of a young Canadian girl who received a full scholarship to attend Oxford University in England. Written in a style imitative of the literature masters (not surprising since her major is Romantic Literature) the author, Carolyn Weber, describes through lots of word painting, her journey from being an angry atheist to a person who comes to understand that she has no earthly lover pursuing her but the very One who chased her all the way down from heaven to bring her to His kingdom.

With broad, impressionistic strokes, Weber describes her childhood. By that I mean that she doesn't prosaically document her family's breakdown and her father's abandonment but rather uses a poetical style that obligates the reader to form conclusions as to why her family was so successful until her father went to jail (she never explains why he went to jail) and why he was so erratic in his participation in their family. Maybe the memory is too painful. What is clear is that after her father left, Carolyn's family was extremely poor and by her own hard work and determination she somehow managed to graduate from high school, go on to earn a Bachelor's degree all the while working with little sleep or food to sustain her.

This chapter of her life comes to an end when she is offered a full ride to one of the most prestigious and oldest institutions in the world. Off she goes half way around the world carrying much more than just a lot of shoes in her baggage. She carries anger, bitterness and more than a little contempt for the male gender as well as God.

The rest of the book describes all the various and diverse people she meets while at Oxford, most of them atheists, like her, but some of them not. This “not” group intrigues her and little by little win her over with their intellect, sound reasoning, joy of life, and unconditional love that flows out from them and pours onto her.
Carolyn has a lot of arguments with these Christians, some fellow students, some professors-all just as intellectual and in love with literature as she is. Carolyn finds herself having more and more arguments with herself, trying to persuade herself that it's all a lot of bunk but having her prejudices “debunked” as the Christians she meets refuse to conform to any stereotypes she tries to apply to them.

One of my favorite passages is when she empties both barrels of her “anti-man” venom on a fellow student she only refers to as “TDH” (tall, dark and handsome). TDH is a Christian who has befriended Caro (as her friends refer to her-Italian for “beloved”). He lets her rant until both man hating fangs are empty then he quietly tells her he won't be her whipping post for man hate.

All in all, Weber does a good job of drawing the reader into her experience in England and all its fine old traditions and customs. While her arguments may seem a little served up, I don't care because I think she was trying to puree down all the many conversations she had with her friends and professors into their basic points. So while much of the dialogue can seem a bit contrived the reasons and arguments are very good and pretty much the standard arguments non believers give for rejecting Christianity. Someone in the searching stage who's questioning whether Christianity might actually be true will find this book a highly interesting and relevant source.

Lovers of classic literature will appreciate all the quotes and references that are peppered throughout the book.

I received this book for free from Thomas Nelson Publishers in exchange for my honest review.

For another review go Parchment Girl and


  1. If Ihad time I would read this book thanks to your reveiw. As it is I am behind in my reading. But perhaps I will get a chance. Great review.

  2. Hi Marsha! Thanks for visiting. I know what you mean. I have a huge TBR pile that I can't seem to make a dent in because I keep buying books. God bless!

  3. Very well written review! I think that you have a book in you as well!

  4. Kathy! Thanks so much. I am writing a book. One reason I review books is to improve my writing skills. I appreciate the encouragement.

  5. Great review, Sharon! I added a link to your review in my post. :)

  6. Thanks, Kate. By the way, my son contracted Lime's disease when he was four years old. Luckily we caught it in time. I'll be praying for you. Take care and God bless!


I welcome comments from anyone with a mutual interest in the subjects I written about.